This conversation between Peter Moss and Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw addresses a wide range of subjects, from Moss’s early writings on the ethical and political struggles of early childhood education to the challenging suggestions of pedagogical experimentation.
The interview was published on July 14, 2020 by the Journal of Childhood Studies in its 45th Volume and No. 2(2020) as an Invitational article.
Lorenzo Manera, a pedagogista and a PhD student at the University of Modena in Reggio Emilia, joined us in August 2019 for our third exposure series conversation: “Early Childhood’s Aesthetic Experience in the Digital Age: Perspectives and Connections”.
Our conversation travelled from what we open ourselves to when we think of aesthetics as experience to the importance of a pedagogist standing for something. In that, we also chatted about the importance of making choices when formatting research questions to thoughtfully shape our curricular relations, and into questions of how digital technologies shape our everyday entanglements in early childhood education.
Lorenzo opened by speaking about the trajectory of his work of becoming a pedagogista, which we held in dialogue with the processes of becoming a pedagogist that we are working to nurture here in Ontario: how do we see the work of becoming a pedagogist as sustaining a process of undoing and re-knotting?How do we think of becoming a pedagogist as participating in processes that do not conclude with having acquired a particular designation but that work to orient us toward certain dispositions necessary for creating conditions for locally meaningful pedagogical work?
Lorenzo then shared with us his work at the intersections of pedagogy, aesthetics, and digital technologies. He offered for us a proposition of the importance of holding strong commitments and making decisions about how to create particular aesthetic experiences with technologies.
Cristina, the pedagogista with the Provincial Centre, connected this to the pedagogical commitments that we work to activate with the Provincial Centre: what opportunities for bringing to life our pedagogical commitments might we create when we think of aesthetics as an experience? When we think aesthetics as an experience entangled with digital technologies, how might we craft ‘research questions’ that hold close to our commitments? Lorenzo offered the idea of adult (educator, pedagogist) as researcher with digital technologies and aesthetics: what educational possibilities might we open when we take seriously our active role in creating conditions for inquiry with technologies and aesthetics as experience? How do we engage with technologies and aesthetics as something to think with (and, weaving back to the work of the Provincial Centre, as exposures) that help to shape the questions we can propose and the ways that we take up those questions with children? This emphasizes the importance, we think, of making decisions as a pedagogist – it matters what exposures, technologies, aesthetic conditions and experiences, and commitments that we think with. What we stand for as a pedagogist is deeply consequential.
We concluded our discussion with some questions from participants, where we thought with how more-than-human others entangle with digital technologies and aesthetics. Here, the importance of context and space in co-shaping possibilities for living well together was brought to the forefront. Linked to our work with the Provincial Centre, this makes us think about the necessity of thinking about relations beyond only centering humans: how does attending to the always entangled relations within particular contexts shape our commitments, questions, decisions, and work as pedagogists? How might thinking relations more expansively interrupt our status-quo practices of engaging with digital technologies and aesthetics with children?
This exposure event, titled Pedagogy and the Role of a Pedagogista: A Perspective, offered opportunities for pedagogists to consider what is required to take on the role of a pedagogist, what might be possible when we take up pedagogy as a social science, and what it is to hold pedagogical commitments as a pedagogist.
In this exposure hosted by the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network, Professor Silvana Calaprice from the University of Bari, Italy. In what follows, we share clips from the discussion, moderated by Dr. Randa Khattar, between Professor Calaprice and Dr. Cristina D. Vintimilla, assistant professor at York University and pedagogista with the Provincial Centre. We anchor each set of clips with some context and questions we hope you will grapple with and carry with you.
1. On the work of a pedagogist
For Silvana Calaprice and the tradition of pedagogical study she thinks with, to be a pedagogist is to grapple with deeply ethical questions:
What concept of the human and of the child do I hold?
With what histories, knowledges, worldviews, philosophies, and relations do I build my understanding of the child?
How does my concept of the child shape my actions and possibilities for my actions as a pedagogist?
Silvana offers that the understandings we hold of children and humans are never crafted in isolation. Rather, these are a common project, one built within a collective of pedagogists and lively worldly conditions.
Sharing two examples – image of the child as competent, and “care” – Silvana invites us to consider how pedagogists must invent and tend to trajectories and processes that disrupt status-quo ideas of education as an applied field. Silvana insists on the provocation that pedagogists must be interested in opening up spaces and relations that create conditions for a collective to respond well to complex contexts. As pedagogists, she suggests, we must trace how our concept of the child shapes the situated relations we create, and we must answer to the local relations we create. How we participate in relations is woven with our non-innocent concepts of the human and the child. Questions that pedagogists must continually revisit include these:
How do I come to understand children and humans?
What is my concept of the human?
How do I understand children?
How do my actions, and the educational processes I open up, activate my conceptions of children and humans?
How am I accountable to these processes and concepts within a collective?
2. What is pedagogy?
Silvana asserts that pedagogy is a particular mode of study – a way of knowing and navigating worlds – that is concerned with thinking the purpose of education. In thinking the purpose of education, Silvana offers that we must think with subject formation and with living well within the relations and contexts we inherit and inhabit:
What subjectivities do we want to cultivate to bring something generative into the life of a collective?
How do we care for transformational relationships within our particular contexts?
How do we create educational processes that open up possibilities for living well together in these times?
We hear Silvana arguing that pedagogy is resolutely against application. It refutes the interpretivist, individualist focus of psychology, which aims to understand and remedy unitary children’s behaviours. Pedagogy orients toward invention, not intervention. Pedagogy is concerned with encountering uncertainties and opening up processes toward different, tentative, more just futures. In this way, pedagogy inhabits the edges of theory and practice, weaving them together in the name of educational processes. Pedagogy is also, Silvana contends, carefully multidisciplinary: It is in constant dialogue with other disciplines, but it knows that these disciplines do not hold dear the same questions as pedagogy. This creates multiple questions for pedagogists to carry:
What relations do I stand for when I center questions of living well together in precarious times?
How do my practices, relations, and concepts of children, humans, and subjectivities shape particular responses toward inhabiting unfamiliar futures in a more-than-human world?
What modes of interdisciplinarity do I bring to my work as a pedagogist – with whom, and with what histories, do I think, read, write, cite, and speak? Why? How?
3. Having pedagogical commitments
Silvana contends that pedagogy stands for particular political commitments: it is against applying a model; it refuses regulatory neoliberal images of competence; it subtracts itself from extractive self-centered assessments of what children already know; it complexifies status-quo conceptions of following the child in emergent curriculum; it wants to erase instrumental conceptions of education where teaching is framed as assisting children to fulfil a universalized, predetermined developmental trajectory. Pedagogists must not, Silvana insists, simply be someone who does a job. They must be deeply invested in their work, because they have situated pedagogical commitments and endeavour toward uncompromisingly pedagogical dispositions of openness and attentiveness. Pedagogists believe in what they do. Silvana offers the concept of “pedagogical energy,” which is the impulse and motion that propels pedagogists to continue researching, to constantly wonder, and live as a question, how to respond to fraught contexts. This impulse fuels pedagogical questions of how we might innovate educational processes in response to a particular context: What is it to do pedagogical work that refuses to be universalizable or scalable; work that subtracts itself from inherited logics of ‘best practices’?
For us, Silvana is invoking a pedagogist deeply concerned with responsibility, where to be response-able is to be able to respond well to questions children, pedagogists, and others get knotted up in, in particular local conditions. This is not an individualized performative notion of responsibility, but rather one that is concerned with living well together in the precarious contexts we inhabit. Responsibility here threads through our relations as we grapple with questions of how to be response-able with children. Silvana offers that stories, and the stories children live within, are a starting point for getting to know what it is we must respond within, but she suggests that we need to go beyond knowing stories to inventing processes that enact our orientations and commitments, that create possibilities that are not currently present. Pedagogists, Silvana generously insists, have responsibilities to do the difficult, uncertain work of creating processes that are grounded in our pedagogical commitments and orientations. For pedagogists, this raises incredibly complex questions:
Do I believe in what I do?
What do I bring to this work?
Why do I hold these orientations within this place, when I hold to questions of living well together?
How do I enact these commitments in response-able relations?
This online conversation was an introduction to what a pedagogist does, and invited pedagogists and educators from British Columbia who engage in this pedagogical practice to speak on their experiences. Over two hours they engaged with many questions and ideas, including:
The process of becoming a pedagogist, and its tensions, difficulties, beauty;
How the process of becoming a pedagogist is an act of co-creating a pedagogical experience (with the situated place you work within – relating to educators, more-than-human others, politics, place, ethics, children, families, precarities);
The need to reconfigure and co-invent pedagogical processes so vibrant curriculum making becomes possible;
The need to subtract taken-for-granted practices, ideas, and habits from thinking to open up toward re-invigorated practices;
Pedagogical commitments and what they do, and the hard work of activating these commitments and standing for something
This panel conversation, moderated by Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw (Faculty of University of Western Ontario), featured:
Dr. Bo Sun Kim (Faculty at Capilano University and Pedagogist with Simon Fraser University Childcare Society)
Narda Nelson (Pedagogist with University of Victoria Childcare Services)
Dongryun Kim (Educator with Simon Fraser University Childcare Society)
Sherri-Lynn Yazbeck (Educator with University of Victoria Childcare Services).
In this following clip, Dr. Bo Sun Kim and Narda Nelson speak about the radical dialogue needed to live in question and enact collective pedagogical commitments to keep possibilities open.
In this exposure Dr. Cristina Delgado-Vintimilla and Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw enaged in Thinking (and Rethinking) Pedagogy through dialogues with a Pedagogista on October 28, 2017 at the Ontario Reggio Association.
They discussed the history and personal story behind becoming a pedagogista. Followed by a discussion of the ethics, histories, and legacies of early childhood education and the possibilities for co-creating ethically responsive pedagogies. They highlighted the significance of collaboratively engaging with ethically responsive pedagogy in early childhood education.
They deliberated on pedagogical disruptions that foster collaboration between educators, children, and families. Furthermore, they considered inviting vulnerabilities as a possible starting point for sharing stories of legacies with children and others.
Cristina and Veronica then called attention to remaining mindful and conscious that pedagogy is non-innocent. In other words, pedagogy embodies a specific kind of intention that is both personal and political in early childhood education.
They closed with a discussion on expanding horizons of possibility in early childhood education, and offering the metaphor of bundling in the work of a pedagogista.
“I wonder if you can start by walking us through how you became a pedagogista…”
“I constantly ask myself: What kind of experiences are we generating?”
“What does collaboration look like?”
“Where do we start our stories of legacies with children? With others?”
“If this is a space that is not innocent, and if this is a pedagogical gathering, then it’s a space for something more than me or the child.”
“We are creating a life together.”
“We can enter a space of debate when we understand that it is not about me or you but it is about this thing that we are trying to create.”
“If that is what is going to frame our horizon, it’s a very, very narrow horizon.”
“I am bundled with all of these stories and history that I carry with me – beyond the pedagogista – that just walks with me.”